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Huard: UW Huskies need to start hitting home runs again vs Stanford

Jake Browning and the UW Huskies offense will have a few weapons back Saturday. (AP)

The UW Huskies are down, but they are not out.

Heaps’ Film Room: Huskies’ D still shining despite slide

After last week’s surprising 12-10 loss at Cal, the Dawgs not only fell from No. 15 to all the way out of the Associated Press college football poll but opened the door for rival Washington State to assume first place in the Pac-12 North. But with wins over its next two games, Washington (6-3 overall, 4-2 conference) can still ensure that the Nov. 23 Apple Cup in Pullman will be a battle for the division against the No. 8-ranked Cougars.

First thing’s first, though – the Huskies have to beat the same Stanford team on Saturday that WSU upset last week. Here’s what ESPN college football analyst Brock Huard says are the keys for the game for UW.

Get some confidence back on offense.

And how you do that? Hit a home run! The lack of explosives in the Huskies’ run and pass games has put such a burden on quarterback Jake Browning and offensive coordinator Bush Hamdan. I fully expect sophomore tight end Hunter Bryant to be active for the first time all year after recovering from knee surgery, and while the Eastside Catholic product will be limited in his snap count, he is a weapon that this offense desperately needs. Small ball has to turn into long ball, and the Stanford secondary should afford some of those opportunities.

Be ready for an offensive slugfest.

Stanford is as thin defensively as it has been under head coach David Shaw, and possessing the football and taking advantage of matchups in space will be a priority for the Husky offense. That said, the Cardinal may be as good as they’ve ever been under Shaw at wide receiver and tight end, and they will challenge the UW secondary in ways no one else in the conference has.

Browning must put last week behind and get back to winning.

Browning’s brand and career has been defined by the record book, because he has won more games over four years than any other Husky QB. I don’t think Jake will care what his numbers look like over the next four weeks. The only thing that matters is whether they get back to the Pac-12 title game.

A lot is riding on Saturday’s game.

This game is enormous for head coach Chris Petersen and his staff, especially first-time OC Hamdan. Bryant and a returning Myles Gaskin should help, the crowd of 68,000 at home should also be advantageous, and knowing the Huskies can still realize their conference goals gives them ample opportunity to write a much better ending than the current troubled plot they find themselves in.

If the Huskies win, the story will be…

an offense that runs the ball and hits a home run or three down the field. A defense that feeds off the home crowd and actually takes advantage of an opponent willing to throw the ball down the field. A gritty, tough, veteran team that responds to the adversity of a rainy night and a stormy loss the week prior in Berkeley. If it happens to go the other way, though, the storm really starts to develop.

Petersen backs Browning as UW Huskies seek offensive answers